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Small Business Optimism Returning

453525195Today American Express OPEN released results from the Fall 2014 American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor which shows that small business owners’ optimism on business prospects and the economy continue to rise. In fact, 63% of entrepreneurs maintain a positive outlook, a level not reached since fall of 2007 (64%).

Now in its 13th year, the semi-annual survey captures a snapshot of small business owner sentiment and plans for the future while providing segmentation by industry, gender and geography.

Top level findings include:

  • 57% of small business owners plan to make capital investments over the next six months (compared to 55% in the spring, 54% last fall and 50% last spring )
  • 42% of entrepreneurs say their revenues are higher when compared to a year ago
  • 79% of business owners are increasingly confident they can access the capital they need to grow their businesses (up from 72% six months ago)
  • Cash flow concerns are easing (43%, down from 49% this spring).

To set their businesses apart from the competition, a majority of business owners say they will place a heightened focus on better serving their clients (85%, up from 78% this spring). As they further sharpen their focus on customers, an increasing number are analyzing data for their business (69%, up from 65% in the spring).  Small businesses main reasons for implementing data analytics include:

  • Improve current products/services (72%)
  • Make key business decisions (66%)
  • Boost efficiency (65%)
  • Identify ideas for marketing (58%)
  • Identify opportunities for new products (52%)
  • Track loyalty/rewards usage (37%)

In addition the semi-annual Small Business Monitor includes a Success Index to identify commonalities across successful businesses that can provide lessons for any small business. The index profiles four groups of entrepreneurs: High Achievers, Strivers, Sustainers and Strugglers.

5 Ways to Protect Your Startup From Copycats

463173161Whoever said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery clearly did not have a startup.  The fact is, when you have a good idea the copycats will come out of the woodwork to steal it.  To keep competitors on their toes and your startup from becoming one of too many, Danielle Tate, entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, the leading online name change service for brides, offers advice on several ways that you can protect your startup from pirates and avoid costly legal battles:

     1)  Build Your Brand…Fast.  With great ideas, it is a race to bring the product to market.  In your planning, I suggest prioritizing how you are going to grab market share.  Whether you use PR, advertisements or social media, it is important for your new business to make a memorable splash in your market.  Once your company is established as the industry leader, copycats are less likely to take your idea and if they do, they should make less of a negative impact on your business.

     2)  Put a Face With Your Company Name.  Consumers love to know the entrepreneur and back story behind a company and become much more connected to your brand when they feel like they know you.  In any copycat situation, your best customers are also your best defenders.  If a customer is emotionally engaged with your brand they are much more likely to stay loyal to your brand when copycats appear, and may also defend you via social media and word of mouth.

     3)  Protect What is Valuable.  Determine what the most valuable assets of your company are and then find ways to protect them.  This can be as simple as adding a copycat scanning software like CopyScape to your website or as complicated as writing code to detect suspicious use of your product.  Whatever you choose to do to protect your startup, being proactive instead of reactive will save you stress, money and possible litigation.

     4)  Form Strategic Partnerships.  If there are key companies in the industry your company is entering, consider partnering with them.  The partnership will help boost awareness of your brand and also locks any copycat companies out of relationships with these partners.  Strategic partnerships are also beneficial if you are afraid that a large company will take your idea.  A partnership or private label will allow the larger company to benefit from your startup without stealing from you.

     5)  Patent It.  If your idea or product is unique, money spent on filing a patent is a wise investment.  While the process is lengthy and expensive, the protection a patent offers your start up is unparalleled.  Even before your patent is approved, the words “patent pending” will deter potential copycats.

These five tips should help your startup stay safe and allow you to focus on building your business instead of fighting off copycats.  Creating a company from an idea is an amazing feat. Good luck.

Danielle Tate is the founder of MissNowMrs.com.

For more on protecting your brand, make an appointment with a SCOREOC mentor today.

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